How to find Revelstoke support for B.C. COVID-19 rent program application

Lack of support, long wait times add to stress of applying for BC Temporary Rent Supplement

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The provincial government's rent subsidy for renters affected by COVID-19 is now open for applications. Photo: pixabay

Applications for the provincial government’s BC Temporary Rent Supplement are finally open, but the application process is proving to be a challenge for some renters. The program is offering tenants impacted by COVID-19 up to $500 per month for April, May and June 2020 rent. The payments are made directly to landlords

The Revelstoke Mountaineer reached out to Community Connections’ housing outreach worker Erin Maclachlan to find out more about how local renters are finding the application process for the temporary rent supplement.

Revelstoke Mountaineer: Have you seen an increase in the number of people accessing the Housing Outreach Program due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Erin Maclachlan: The Housing Outreach Program continues to be an exhausted resource. More and more we have to declare that we do not have the means to support individuals with insecure housing, or individuals without housing.

We reached out to our local funding sources to request that a supplementary emergency housing and resource fund be created to prepare for next winter since our Housing Outreach Program is insufficient to support the needs of our community.

The COVID-19 outbreak has added to this already stressed funding source. BC Housing is implementing as many supports as they can for individuals that are struggling and we are working with BC Housing to support Revelstoke during the pandemic. However, this will not alleviate the over-taxed Housing Outreach program over the next year.

RM: Have you helped anyone apply for the COVID-19 rent supplement the provincial government is offering? If so, approximately how many people? What has the process been like so far?

Erin: The process of applying for federal or provincial social supports is unique to each individual. The rent supplement only recently came out, so not many people have applied through the Housing Outreach Program yet. The process is fairly simple, but, as is common with government supports, requires that the applicant have documentation attached to the application(e.g. notice of assessments, T4s, record of employment, and identification). This often deters people from applying because they may not have all the required documents. The BC Housing website does encourage people to apply regardless of having all required documentation.

RM: Have you had any feedback from landlords regarding the provincial COVID-19 rent help? If so, what has the general feedback been?

Erin: I don’t have contact with many landlords directly. I have only heard from tenants. A few tenants have had their rent increased recently, so I am questioning how the provincial freeze on rent increases and evictions will be enforced over the next few months.

RM: People who already receive financial help for rent through programs such as Income Assistance, Persons with Disabilities, the BC Housing Rental Assistance Program, etc. do not qualify for the COVID-19 related rent help. What response are you hearing from people who are in this situation and do not qualify for this money? Do you see this as a gap?

Erin: What stood out to me is that the COVID-19 rent supplement is not for anyone receiving any other type of financial social support. Any one receiving income assistance, person with disability assistance, or other rent supplement programs is denied this COVID-19 supplement. However, anyone on income assistance or disability assistance will be receiving an extra $300/month which is comparable to the rent supplement. This increase is automatic, so also eliminates another application process. For everyone that I’ve told about the increase to their monthly assistance payment they were unaware, or didn’t believe that it would happen. I think when the extra money appears people will be very happy.

RM: What challenges have you seen or heard from people attempting to access COVID-19 supports (e.g. accessing provincial and federal help/services and also any challenges accessing local services such as those at Community Connections)?

Erin: I think what is most challenging is the lack of other supports. Service BC offices are operating with reduced hours, and our local office does not offer many of the services that are required for people to apply for supports. The Work BC office is closed where people get support to apply for employment insurance. The community centre, Okanagan college, and library are closed where people can access the internet and computers to apply for supports on their own. On top of the lack of options, the only ways to apply for these supports in Revelstoke is through the phone or internet. This is often not an option for many people experiencing poverty because they don’t have a phone or internet. Even when they find a way to do the application on their own the website crashes, or they cannot get through on the telephone. I have been able to support many people over the phone with applications, but even after we apply there are many people that are still waiting to hear whether or not they will get their financial supports. The added stress to an already stressful situation makes it a difficult time for many Revelstoke citizens. Community Connections is still available to support people during this time. Call our main office at 250-837-2920 or email info@community-connections.ca with any questions or needs.

Clarification: While the physical WorkBC Revelstoke location is closed due to COVID-19, services are still offered by telephone.